During this past Tuesday’s Being a Leader reading with two of my colleagues, we read slides related to authentic listening. This sentence showed me the depths to which I am not listening:

This kind of listening requires you to be authentically committed to recreating another’s reality as the reality, not a reality, but the reality. To do so you cannot be listening from what’s real “for them.” You have to leave the “for them” out of your listening. Remember you are neither agreeing nor disagreeing, rather you are recreating another.

 

I was struck by those words, and considered how I have trained myself to listen to others longer by thinking, “That’s your/her/his/their story. It’s true for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s true for me.”

I’m still not listening

What I realized is that I’m still not listening to the speaker. I’m listening to myself speak about how what they’re saying is a story about what happened, not what happened. I can see how that leaves the speaker not feeling complete nor gotten.

So, based on the above text, what gets in the way of my ability to be a good listener is not being authentically committed to recreating another’s reality as the reality. By default, I don’t think about doing that. And, when I do consciously think about doing it, it seems risky. What if the speaker is right? What if I change my point of view?

I considered the line from “a rabbit walks into a bar” joke, and how I suspend logic and reality to be present with what the speaker is saying. I don’t fight against a rabbit walking. I don’t fight against a rabbit being in a bar. I’m fully present, and have made the rabbit in a bar the reality so I can get the experience of what comes next.

Suspending disbelief

What would be possible if I listened that way to my wife? To my children? To my clients? What would be possible if I was authentically committed to making the speaker’s reality the reality?

Number one, I wouldn’t be so quick to judge, dismiss, or problem-solve.

Number two, I would be curious and ask more questions.

Number three, the speaker would feel gotten because I saw the world as they did instead of trying to get the speaker to see the world as I see it.

I don’t have to be concerned about losing my perspective, feelings, nor beliefs. They’re strong and they’ll be there when I come back to my reality. And, when I do come back to my reality, I’ll return with a much stronger understanding and interpretation of what the speaker is communicating. That sets me up to offer deeper and more qualitative caring and/or consulting because I’ve gotten the speaker through my listening.